HOP HARRIGANMedium: Comic Books
Published by: All-American Publications
First Appeared: 1939
Creator: Jon L. Blummer
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the wide world beyond comic books, is one a majority of today's comics fans have never even heard of — Hop Harrigan. The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, all of which were originally All-American characters, headed up comic books of their own which are still briskly traded in the collector market. But Hop, who mostly stayed in the back pages and appeared on a mere three covers (and had to share the first of them with three other series, only one of which, Scribbly, was the least bit memorable), is the only All-American character adapted into non-comics media during the publisher's existence as a separate company.
Hop was introduced in All-American's first release, appropriately titled All-American Comics #1, which was dated April, 1939. This made him the first successful aviation hero in comic books, tho he was preceded in newspaper comics by Tailspin Tommy, Barney Baxter, Connie Kurridge and any number of others. The story in that first issue, by cartoonist Jon L. Blummer (Fighting Yank, Little Boy Blue), told how Hop was orphaned at an early age when his father, a famous pilot, disappeared on a flight to South America to see his estranged wife. Hop was raised by a neighbor, who had falsely (but successfully) claimed legal guardianship so as to get his hands on Hop's inheritance. When he was almost grown, and the neighbor/guardian tried to take an axe to an ancient biplane Dad had stored away years earlier, Hop knocked the old man to the ground and took off in the plane, never to return.
Hop wound up at an airport many miles away, where his first act was to save the life of mechanic Tank Tinker, who became his close friend and constant companion. It was also Tank who gave Hop (whose first name hadn't been mentioned) his nickname when, talking about the flight there, he remarked, "Some hop, Harrigan." Hop, Tank and the pilot who had inadvertently endangered Tank (Prop Wash), with the help of capital from an heiress who quickly became Hop's girlfriend, launched a business called All-American Aviation Company. The company served as base for many exciting adventures in which Hop was the hero, Tank the sometimes humorous sidekick, and Prop in the background, more-or-less forgotten. Naturally, all three joined the U.S. Army Air Corps the moment the U.S. entered World War II, and for the next few years did their adventuring in service of the war effort.
This they did not just in subsequent issues of All-American Comics, but also in Comic Cavalcade, an extra-thick anthology comic that contained many of the company's most popular characters. He also appeared in text stories here and there through the line. It was in one of those text stories that Hop made his only crossover into the superhero world — The Justice Society of America made a guest appearance in his text story in All Star Comics #8 (January, 1941). He did, tho, briefly become a superhero himself, when that genre was at the height of its popularity. Between All-American Comics #25 (April, 1941) and 28 (July), he put on a costume and bashed evil under the name of The Guardian Angel.
Hop's radio show aired on the Mutual Network starting in 1942, with Chester Stratton playing "America's ace of the airwaves" (as Hop was billed in that medium) and Ken Lynch as Tank. Both were frequently-heard radio actors who switched to TV a few years afterward. Lynch was later replaced by Jackson Beck, who also worked in animation — he was Popeye's rival, Bluto, from 1944-57, King Leonardo in 1960, and Perry White in Superman cartoons of the late 1960s. A major old-time radio reference book gives the show's debut date as August 31, 1942, but other sources indicate it was on the air as early as February.
His movie serial was produced by Columbia Pictures (Blondie, Congo Bill), and starred William Bakewell in the title role and Sumner Getchell as Tank. Both were successful actors, but with only one other toon connection between them — Bakewell appeared in the 1928 Harold Teen movie. Tho the serial began production while All-American was still a separate company, by the time the first of its 15 chapters was released to theatres (March 28, 1946), the company had been fully acquired by the publisher it had been closely allied with from the beginning, DC Comics.
DC continued to publish Hop's adventures in the back pages of All-American Comics until its 99th issue (July, 1948). By that time, adventuring aviators had gone very much out of fashion, and upcoming trendy genres included westerns. Hop's replacement, Johnny Thunder, was of that genre. Johnny went on to be All-American's star. In fact, three issues later, the comic was re-titled All-American Western. Hop went on to be virtually forgotten.